Lent

Review: He Was Crucified

He Was Crucified: Reflections on the Passion of Christ
by Gerard Joseph Stanley Sr., MD, ed. by Kent J. Burreson, PhD.

Sometimes we get to know things too well… or think we know them too well. If you’ve heard the Passion accounts every year as long as you can remember, it’s easy to grow numb to what happened. In this book, Gerard Stanley analyzes Christ’s passion from the upper room through his burial from a medical standpoint, using both history and his knowledge as a doctor to deepen our understanding of what Jesus went through. Pictures from throughout the ages accompany the text with explanatory notes. The margins of the book are filled with quotes from Christians throughout time, describing what Jesus went through. Experience the Passion anew as you are walked through Jesus’s last twenty-four hours of life.

This book is gorgeous to look at. Burreson, the editor, did a fantastic job gathering art from across the centuries, from the very first depiction of Jesus’s crucifixion that we’ve found, up through modern times. The text that accompanies the pictures, too, illuminate what you’re looking at. I found those descriptions very useful in looking deeper and reflecting on what the artists were conveying. Most of the pictures are placed well to reinforce the text, though a few seem a touch out of place – for instance, the section on Jesus’s burial had a number of pictures with him still suffering on the cross. In general, though, the pictures helped me meditate on Jesus’s sacrifice. (more…)

Advertisements

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 5: Ex Crucio

Listen.

Do you hear the sound of the serpent striking his heel? Do you hear the sound of King David crying out as he sings, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Do you hear Isaiah weep as he says, “He was crushed for our iniquities”? The Prince’s pain echoes down through time, to the very beginning. His fall is so great, because it is the center of everything that has ever happened. It is the heartbeat of the Bible, of your life, of the world.

Listen.

The Prince and the Father wove a plan throughout all history… and it all came to this. It came to his Fall. He has been betrayed. Arrested. Rejected. Denied. Condemned. And now he comes to his cross. Ex crucio. The Latin phrase literally means “from the cross.” It’s where we get our word “Excruciating.” And now… here his cries come, ex cruio, from the cross.

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 5: Ex Crucio.

They led him out… to crucify him. As is normal for the Romans, they force the condemned to carry his own crossbeam. A hundred fifty pounds of already blood-stained wood. Jesus isn’t even worthy of a new cross; he gets one that has already been used to crucify… what? A dozen criminals before him? Two dozen? More? His arms are chained to the crossbeam, and as he falls… he can’t even use his hands to catch himself. He lands on his chest, all the weight of the crossbeam pressing down. The Prince is so, so weak. The soldiers have a job to do. They grab Simon. Force him to carry the bloody wood.

And the Prince… has so much farther to fall. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 4: Condemned

Listen. Do you hear the whispers of the Law? From the very beginning, it has whispered and it has shouted. It has always been very clear: Follow the Law, and you will live. Just do this thing. Just love God with all you are, holding nothing back for yourself. Just love every person around you, no matter how much they’ve hurt you, no matter how much they don’t deserve your love, always put them first and yourself last. Just do that… and you will live.

Listen. Do you hear what the Law says to you? You who have not loved God with all you are? You who have not loved those around you, putting yourself after them? Listen. The Law condemns. The Law says to you: You have failed, and so you will not enjoy the reward. Instead, you will receive wages. You will get what you have worked for. You will receive death. The Law is not your friend. It condemns. And you know that the Law is not lying.

But listen… there is another whispering on the wind, in the Word, whispered from mouth to ear across centuries. Another is coming who will carry our transgressions. Another is coming who will be wounded for our sins. Another is coming… and the Law will work on him instead of on us.

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 4: Condemned (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 3: Denied

Listen.

The Father speaks. And he announces what will happen. And for as long as God announces what will happen, people have not trusted it. God said, “Do not eat the fruit of that tree, for when you do, you will surely die.” And Adam and Eve don’t trust him. They trust the serpent: “You will not surely die.” God tells Abraham, “You will have a child, and your descendants will outnumber the stars.” And Abraham doesn’t trust God and takes matters into his own hands, cheating on his wife to have a child. Why would it have been any different when Jesus walked the earth?

The Fall of Christ, Chapter Three: Denied.

The Prince, Jesus, as he walked this earth made a number of predictions. He told his disciples, “I will die.” Peter told him not to talk that way. Jesus told them, “I will rise again.” Peter ignored it. Jesus told them, “You will all run away from me.” Peter shook his head. “Not me! Even if everyone else flees, I won’t do it!” I can’t be that bad.

Jesus looked right at Peter. “I tell you, three times before the rooster crows twice, you will deny that you even know me.” And Peter? He refused to listen. He refused to trust Jesus that he could ever do anything like that. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter 2: Rejected

Listen.

From the beginning of brokenness, the Father and the Prince made a plan. The Prince would enter the world. He would rescue it, by offering himself up. And part of that plan was telling people about what was coming. Through centuries the Prince whispered that he would come. That he would crush the head of the serpent. That he would be crushed for our iniquities. Through prophets he spoke, so that the people would be ready. And some… they listened. They valued the message. They held on to it. They held it close. And they waited. They ached to see the Prince come and keep all his promises. But when he finally came… he was rejected.

The Fall of Christ, Chapter Two: Rejected.

The man named Caiaphas awaits in the Sanhedrin chambers.

The Sanhedrin: The ruling council of the Jews, made up of seventy-one elders. And this is where they ruled. This is the chamber that his father-in-law, Annas, had made great. And though Annas’s term was up, he still controlled much power through Caiaphas. But he and his father-in-law had a glorious goal: Preach the Law that God had given them. Wait for the one that was promised, wait for the one who would bring them freedom, and teach the Law.

The oil lamps have been lit, and their flickering light fills the open-air gathering place. Caiaphas prowls the chamber, waiting for the soldiers to return. They were supposed to go and arrest Jesus.

It was time to end this. (more…)

The Fall of Christ, Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows

Listen.

Listen, for what I am about to tell you is true. It is the heartbeat of the world. It is your heartbeat. These things are true, and they are the only reason we have hope. It is the heartbeat of the Bible, and every verse, every syllable leans in toward this story: The story,the true story, what happened in history with real people with flesh and bone and blood and hopes and dreams. The Fall of Christ.

Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows.

The Prince sat on the Throne in the City of Light, and he looked toward creation. His creation. His love. And what he saw was sorrow. His creation rejected him. And rejecting him meant they rejected every good thing, for every good gift comes from him. He and the Father wove a plan. It held a high cost, a dear cost, but it would be enough to redeem the entire world, to bring it back to them, to grow joy where sorrow had laid down deep, deep roots. The Prince was willing to pay that cost.

The Father whispered: “It’s time.” (more…)

It’s so very Lent.

I have no hair left to tear out.

If you had to choose one, which would it be:
a. Support a church family that is currently grieving
b. Offer an outreach event to support Easter worship

For months we’ve been building up a Wii bowling tournament we’re hosting. The idea is that it gets people into our building, introduces them to our congregation, and gives us a direct chance to invite to Easter. It’s pre-evangelism. It’s a way to get names and addresses for our prospect list. Using these names, I’ll personally invite each person to Easter during the following week. Fun and simple! We’ve got ads in the newspaper (yay free advertising!), online, and in other places. We’re holding the event this coming Saturday. Good times!

Today after worship, a phone call changed the atmosphere. One of our members, a young single mother, was found dead in her bed. Cause of death unknown.

I love being in a small congregation. We all prayed together – with the family. We grieved together. We felt the absence of this person. It is good to mourn with your brothers and sisters. It is good to admit that death sucks, but we need not fear it.

But now…. Now, it appears that the family will choose Saturday for the funeral. (more…)

Ashes on the Cross

photo

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Yesterday at our teen center, I explained repentance. To a bunch of teens that had no idea that Noah was from the Bible a few months ago, to teens that have no experience at “church,” I told the story of David and Bathsheba. I talked about the depth of sin, the stunning revelation of guilt, the even more stunning announcement of forgiveness, and David’s reaction to all of it. And then, I explained how for many years Christians have shown the state of their heart – their complete sorrow over their own sin – by putting ashes on.

The teens wanted to put ashes on that second. (more…)

Cover up the Cross

John 17:1-5 17      After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

 

Cover the cross.

 

It’s one thing to cheer for an underdog, but to cheer for someone who’s already lost? Now that’s stupid. Who cheers for a loser? How many people, when selecting for their fantasy football leagues, pick the biggest losers? How many people long to fail at their heart’s desire?  How many parents look at their children and think, “I hope that my beloved child marries a loser.” It’s dumb. No one wants to be associated with a loser.

So why do we have these? Why do we put up crosses in front of our churches? In our homes? Why do we wear them? All a cross is is a reminder of the biggest loser in history. It’s a reminder of a guy who dreamed big but ultimately died without glory. (more…)

Behold Your King

Matthew 27:27-31

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

 

Behold your King.

 

You want a strong leader? You want someone who can battle your enemies? You want someone who can lead you to peace and prosperity? Look somewhere else.

Behold your King. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. (Matthew 27:27-31) (more…)